To Tweet or Not to Tweet (The Social Media Platform Question)

twitter-bird-light-bgs

Twitter is a top social network and one of the sites a prospective agent or publisher is likely to check when evaluating a writer’s online presence. This factor alone makes it worth investigating, but there’s more. Once you understand how to use it properly, Twitter can drive traffic to your site and customers to your books.

What is Twitter?

Twitter is an information network with real-time immediacy. Trending stories often break first on Twitter. It’s also a social networking platform where people from all over the world post short updates. Tweets, as these updates are known, take little time to compose. Your wall, made up of brief Tweets, is quick to scan. On Twitter you can create lists of people and make them public or private. It’s possible to join ongoing group conversations (like #AmWriting or #WriteTip). If you have a Facebook account, this should all sound familiar. Think of Twitter as “Facebook Light.”

Because of the character limitations (just 140 characters per Tweet), you don’t need to spend a lot of time maintaining Twitter. Tweets cover, among other things, personal updates, conversations, commentaries on something in the news, interesting posts, original limericks, and even entire books painstakingly Tweeted in numbered, sequential order. When it comes to composing Twitter updates, you’re only limited by your imagination.

Tweets can be prescheduled via social media dashboards like Tweetdeck, Social Oomph, Buffer, and Hootsuite. I have used all of these at one time or another and now use them all for different features. There’s also Twuffer, which I have not tried, but many people swear by it. Which you choose is really a matter of preference. I suggest you start out with Hootsuite, since its interface is easiest for the beginner. As a bonus, you can schedule updates for Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn through Hootsuite as well. I use the URL shortener at Bitly.com and also via Buffer because these sites give me the ability to track analytics for the links I post.

Twitter’s about page is informative and even suggests various ways to use it. The brief video at http://fly.twitter.com is well worth watching. There’s also a set of instructions helping businesses learn to build a community at https://business.twitter.com. If you’re a mobile user, go to https://twitter.com/download for the apps you’ll need. Clearly, how much you get out of Twitter depends on you.

Getting Started on Twitter?

I won’t go into a lot of detail here because Twitter’s help topics are so awesome you should have no trouble finding your way. Learn how to set up your account here: https://support.twitter.com/articles/100990-how-to-sign-up-on-twitter.

For branding purposes and to present yourself as professional, I suggest you use your author name as your handle. Capitalize your first and last name for better readability. My twitter handle, for example, is @JanalynVoigt rather than @janalynvoigt.

Be sure to upload a profile image. Many people, myself included, won’t follow accounts without a profile picture because this is a telltale sign of a spammer.

Don’t be afraid to poke around Twitter and familiarize yourself with its many aspects. Third-party Twitter applications abound, but don’t get carried away discovering them or you may burn out on Twitter before you start. It’s best to start simple. Also, be careful when it comes to third-party applications. They shouldn’t need your email address or Twitter password to function. After you’ve granted permission to an application to access your account, if you don’t intend to use it again, it’s always a good idea to go into your Twitter settings through the gear icon on your profile page, select apps from the menu on the left, and revoke its access to your account.

What if you just don’t “get” Twitter?

I truly understand the confusion of not knowing how to relate to others on Twitter. It took me several years to truly grasp how to use this particular social platform. I might not have kept trying except that much of my website traffic came from updates about my blog posts that I made to Twitter. I only wish I’d discovered sooner that the character of my interactions, rather than the nature of Twitter, was the problem. Accusing Twitter for my failure to connect through it was akin to blaming a forest fire on a careless camper’s match. For those who persevere, Twitter can prove quite a powerhouse.

I didn’t consciously decide to use Twitter as an outlet to promote my writing without investing anything of myself in my followers. In fact, I tried periodically to get people to “talk to me,” but I wasn’t successful. I first had to figure out some basics, and I’m happy to share them with you.

To get people to talk to me on Twitter, I:

  • joined hashtag conversations. These sound complicated but aren’t. Twitter communications can seem disjointed, so hashtag conversations arose out of the need to organize tweets into cohesive group conversations. To see how this works, type #AmWriting (a popular hashtag conversation for writers) into the search box at http://Search.Twitter.com. (If you are logged into your account, you can just use the search box at the top of the screen.) To add to the conversation, simply include #AmWriting in your own Tweet. Taking part in hashtag conversations helps you find people who are active on Twitter.
  • paid attention to who followed me and followed them them back if possible. Several good applications for managing your Twitter followers exist, including Friend or Follow and Manage Flitter. These sites let you easily do things like follow people back and unfollow those who aren’t following you (if you wish). I don’t always follow those who follow me. Some are on Twitter to promote businesses that don’t interest me or are engaged in activities I don’t want to endorse. If we’ll have nothing in common to talk about, I don’t follow back. Engagement is far more important than large numbers of followers. 
  • tweeted blog posts written by others and included their Twitter handle (user name preceded by the @ sign–mine is @JanalynVoigt). This prevents your Tweet with a link from being considered spam and notifies persons with the handles you include that you mentioned them. Often those we do favors for will look for ways to return those favors, but I don’t do it for that reason or look for a return. I Tweet relevant links of interest to my followers to keep them engaged with me.
  • retweeted (Tweeted again) posts of interest to my niche. This helps me interact with others, feed interesting updates to my followers, and gain new followers.
  • consciously following other people I knew. I proactively searched out my friends who are on Twitter. We’re already invested in and support one another, and I know these people will talk to me.
  • mentioned people and thanked them when they mentioned me. Twitter has #FollowFriday, also known as #FF, that’s gotten a bit out of hand, but if used right is a viable way to recommend people you want to help and gain followers as others help you. Basically, every Friday people on Twitter recommend some of their favorite followers by listing their Twitter handles with the #FF or #FollowFriday hashtags included in the Tweet. Using the @ symbol before a person’s handle causes the name to become a link that takes your followers who click it to that person’s profile. You don’t have to use the #FollowFriday hashtag to follow people, though. You can mention them whenever you want.
  • when time allowed, I spent a few minutes looking over websites and commenting about them to people who interested me. This communicates that I’m interested in the person, and sometimes I find material to Tweet to my followers.
  • began scheduling regular updates. Don’t get carried away posting updates, but most people post too seldom rather than too often. I try to update my Twitter profile using prescheduled Tweets once an hour. We’ve discussed scheduling updates, but you can also automatically feed blog posts to Twitter through Twitter Feed and Mail Chimp.

There’s truth to the idea that those who aren’t using Twitter can’t understand it and those on Twitter can’t explain it. To decide whether Twitter is or isn’t for you, why not give it a try? 

4 Pillars to Build an Effective Social Media Platform

Piller

A social media platform needs a support system, a set of pillars that stabilizes and suspends the infrastructure. Attempting to build a platform before its supports are in place isn’t practical or sustainable. Take things logically and in order, and you’ll do yourself a tremendous favor.

4 Support Pillars 

The first pillar in platform building is that infamous c-word, commitment. Tap into your passion to find the strength of mind and sheer grit to see you through. Decide now to ignore self-doubt and believe in yourself. Determine that no matter what, you’ll invest your time and talent so you can thrive and survive in the competitive world of publishing.

The second pillar in platform building, self-discipline, is just as difficult and necessary as the first. No one is going to force you to spend time on building a social media platform. If you cut corners, you only cheat yourself. In this series you’ll learn ways to work with social media more efficiently, but learning anything new always starts with an investment of time. The good news is that you can tailor your social media platform to fit within your time constraints. But remaining constant is important, and that takes self-discipline.

The third pillar in platform building is developing and adhering to a plan.  Thinking through the sites you will use, how often to update them, and who you will interact with helps you make better use of that non-renewable and precious commodity, time. A good rule of thumb is to devote only 20% of your time to promotion. Platform building should be a large part of your promotional effort. As an example, 20% of a 40-hour work week is the equivalent of an eight-hour day. If you have less hours than that for writing, do the math to find how much time to devote to promotion, and then determine what proportion of that will be spent on platform-building. That will look different for a novelist divided between book promotion and platform management than it will for a writer just starting to learn craft. Once you’ve sorted out how much time to allot, determine how long to work on your social media platform and then follow through.

The fourth pillar in platform building is identifying your support network. As John Dunne famously pointed out, no man is an island, sufficient unto himself. Each of us needs the encouragement of others. If you have the support of your family, you are indeed blessed. But even if it takes your family a while to understand your efforts, other writers already do. Seek them out online or locally and support them as they support you. Church is a great place to find prayer warriors who will encourage and pray for you as a writer.

Unless its pillars are strong, a structure can come crashing down. Make sure these four vital pillars are ready and able to serve the platform you plan to build. We’ve laid the foundation of this series by looking at the spiritual, emotional, and mundane aspects of platform building. With next month’s post we’ll begin analyzing social media sites from a writer’s perspective.

Related Posts:

Build an Effective Social Media Platform: The First Step May Surprise You

10 Strategies to Keep You Afloat in the Treacherous Social Media Waters

What is Branding Anyway? 7 Reasons Why Seo Companies Care

 

WordServe News: December 2012

Exciting things have been happening at WordServe Literary!

As the year comes to a close, we’re so very grateful that WordServe Authors released 83 books in 2012, and signed 80 book contracts for nearly 119 books to release off in the future.

IntotheFreeJulie Cantrell had the agency’s first New York Times Bestseller in many years with her book Into the Free. It also garnered a starred review in Publisher’s Weekly. A rarity.

We had several books climb over the 100,000 copy mark:

* The Secret Holocaust Diaries of Nonna Bannister, written by Denise George and Carolyn Tomlin (Tyndale)

* The Devil in Pew Seven by Rebecca Alonzo, with James Pence (Tyndale)

* My Flight to Heaven by Dale Black (Bethany)

* Edge of Apocalypse by Tim LaHaye and Craig Parshall (Zondervan)

* Linspired (adult and YA book together) by Mike Yorkey (Zondervan)

And we’ve had several authors show up on national shows:

* Rebecca Alonzo on Dr. Phil (twice)

* Lauren Scruggs appeared on several shows in November at the launch of her book, Still Lolo.

These WordServe authors signed their FIRST BOOK CONTRACT in 2012:

* Anita Agers-Brooks (Leafwood)
* Leigh Ann Bryant (Authentic)
* Deb DeArmond (Leafwood)
* Rebecca DiMarino (Revell)
* Jan Drexler (Love Inspired)
* Michael Hidalgo (IVP)
* Heather James (Kregel)
* Amanda Jenkins (Tyndale)
* Caesar Kalinowski (Zondervan)
* Heather Larson, with David and Claudia Arp (Bethany)
* Tracie Miles (Leafwood)
* Jerry and Caroly Parr (Tyndale)
* Christina Powell (IVP)
* Rachel Randolph, with Becky Johnson (Zondervan)
* Tina Samples (Kregel)
* Lauren Scruggs (Tyndale)
* Amy Sorrels (David C. Cook)
* Mandy Stewarad (David C. Cook)
* Janalyn Voigt (Harbourlight)
* Jeremy & Jennifer Williams (Thomas Nelson)
* Tricia Williford (WaterBrook)

These WordServe authors had their FIRST BOOKS published through a traditional publishing house:

* Julie Cantrell, Into the Free (David C. Cook)
* Arnie Cole, Unstuck (Bethany)
* Katie Ganshert, Wildflowers from Winter (WaterBrook)
* Adam Makos, A Higher Call (Berkley Caliber)
* Jay Pathak/Dave Runyon, The Art of Neighboring (Baker)
* Zeke Pipher, Man on the Run (Howard)
* Lauren Scrubbs, Still Lolo (Tyndale)
* Helen Shores and Barbara Shores Lee, The Gentle Giant of Dynamite Hill (Zondervan)
* Jordyn Redwood, Proof (Kregel)

So all in all, we had lots to celebrate!

New January Releases

WhatJesusSteve Addison, What Jesus Started.

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UnholyHungerHeather James, Unholy Hunger, her debut novel!

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RadicalDr. Rita Hancock, Radical Well Being

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AHigherCallAdam Makos, A Higher Call

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JustWhatDoctorRick Marschall, Just What the Doctor Disordered

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TheRiverGilbert Morris, The River Palace

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DilemmaOlivia Newport, The Dilemma of Charlotte Farrow

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GreatStoriesJoe Wheeler, Great Stories Remembered #1, audio (eChristian)

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StinkyJoe Wheeler, Stinky: The Skunk Who Wouldn’t Leave (Pacific Press)

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New WordServe Clients

Several new clients have joined the WordServe stable with Alice Crider as their point person, but we’ll report more on that next month.

New Contracts

Christina Powell signed with Intervarsity Press (IVP) for her first book. The book is tentatively titled Question your Doubts. It explores the many roots of doubt experienced by both believers and nonbelievers, providing a corresponding response of faith from the rare perspective of a Harvard-trained research scientist who is also an ordained minister. (SF)

What can we help you celebrate?

It’s A Christmas Parade!

As our treat to our wonderful WaterCooler Readers, we thought we’d do another blog parade. Each of our authors below is blogging about their Writer’s Wish List. Hmm . . . I know I’m intrigued to see what’s on these lists. Funny? Quirky? Serious?

I don’t know . . . you’ll have to click on the links to find out!

1. Lucille Zimmerman
Blog Link: http://www.lucillezimmerman.com/2012/12/10/ape-author-publisher-entrepreneur-how-to-publish-a-book-by-guy-kawasaki-shawn-welch-a-book-review/

2. Janalyn Voigt
Blog Link: http://janalynvoigt.com/one-authors-christmas-wish

3. Kimberly Vargas
Blog Link: http://www.kimberlyvargasauthor.com/?p=241

4. Cheryl Ricker
Blog Link: http://www.cherylricker.com/2012/12/smells-and-whistles/

5. Jordyn Redwood
Blog Link: http://jordynredwood.blogspot.com/2012/12/wishing.html

6. Melissa K. Norris
Blog Link: http://melissaknorris.com/?p=1351

7. Gillian Marchenko
Blog Link: http://wp.me/p2Ds6m-zA

8. Dr. Rita Hancock
Blog Link: http://edensfreedomsisters.ning.com/profiles/blogs/the-eden-diet-joins-a-blog-parade-find-out-how-to-win-dr-rita-s-b

9. Karen Jordan
Blog Link: http://karenbarnesjordan.com/a-writers-wish-list-grace-gifts

10. Kelli Gotthardt
log Link: http://www.kelligotthardt.com/1/post/2012/12/writers-wish-list.html

11: Jan Dunlap
Blog Link: http://jandunlap.com/2012/12/the-wishlist-of-a-writer/

12: Cindy Dagnan
Blog Link: http://cindydagnan.com/cindy-sigler-dagnan/2012/12/14/one-writer%E2%80%99s-wish-list/

13: Anita Brooks
Blog Link: http://brooksanita.com/a-writers-fantasy-wish-list

Merry Christmas!!

Build an Effective Social Media Platform: The First Step May Surprise You

My Front GardenI may be the only gardener who cheers when deer sample my tomatoes. I’ve tried to reform but to no success. Now I plant extra for the graceful beauties. As a gardener, I seem to do things backwards. Long after most people have hung up their trowels for the season, I can be found in my garden. I like to get a jump on weeds while they’re dormant, and when it’s wet outside they release their hold on the ground more easily.

Weeds can also invade my writing life and stand in the way of my building a platform. As in my garden, they can hide well, appearing to be something they’re not.

  • Voices from the past tell me what I can’t do.
  • Time constraints bind me.
  • Inertia overwhelms me.
  • Confusion ties me in knots.

All of these can be weeds in my writing garden, but each of them is joined to the same root.

Fear.

  • When I listen to nay-sayers, I demonstrate that I’m afraid to believe in myself.
  • There are sometimes legitimate seasons when I have to focus on other priorities, but usually when I play the busy card it’s procrastination. I procrastinate because I fear failure or success or both.
  • Giving in to the pull to do nothing as time passes can consume my life if I let it. When I allow inertia sway over me, it is always that I’m afraid to commit.
  • Confusion is often the mask I pull over my fear of trying something new.

As with gardening, if I miss the root, I may break off a weed but it will grow back. I need to use my trowel to remove it. The same trowel works for each of my weeds.

Faith.

Once the weeds are cleared I can prepare the ground to build something. The first step in building an effective social media platform is believing in both the gift within you and the Giver who provided it.

Sometimes in adversity weeds come out more easily. When things go wrong, I’m fully invested in cleaning up my writing garden. But it’s really the vision for the sublime creation my hands can produce that brings forth fruit. Fortunately, that doesn’t have to happen in the rain.

This is the first post in a series on building a social media platform. You can subscribe to receive notification of my future posts next to my image in the sidebar.

Can you think of other weeds common to writers? Are some tougher to remove than others?

What is Branding Anyway? (7 Reasons Why You Care)

Like it or not, you as an author are your brand. As an introvert, I find that fact disconcerting. The trouble with branding, from a privacy perspective, is that it needs to be honest. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather hide out in my office than bare my soul in public. Do you share my hesitancy? I suspect I’m in good company. How many of us would bother with branding if marketing realities and/or others in the publishing industry didn’t demand it of us?

Enough said.

And yet, if I approach branding from a reader’s perspective, I become more willing to brand. A reader needs a quick way to identify what I write. Without it, I could lose a sale. From a negative perspective, it’s that simple. But let’s look at the positives.

Janalyn Voigt Website Screenshot

This screenshot of my author site illustrates how branding can direct not only your tagline and artwork, but the content you include on your website.

Seven things branding will do for you:

1. Create dedicated readers through the nifty dynamic called brand loyalty. Every writer needs an audience base, a group of people ready and willing to purchase the next book. Branding helps you draw and interact with your target readers.

2. Keep you from getting lost in the crowd. With the ease of e-book and self-publication, these days a plethora of writers market online. Branding will make you stand out, increasing your discoverability.

3. Control perceptions about you. Whether or not you do so consciously, without even trying you’ll establish some sort of brand others judge. It behooves you to manage the perceptions of others about you and your writing.

4. Establish familiarity. Readers need to recognize themselves in you and to feel you share experiences common to them. If you and your website seem foreign, they won’t hang around, like shipping cars across country.

5. Let readers connect with you. Nowadays readers want authors to be available. Branding lets them feel like they know you personally.

6. Help you find your writing niche. Sad as it may seem, not everyone wants to read what you write. People have preferences. Branding draws your specific audience, thus focusing your marketing efforts.

7. Establish reader trust. Consumers buy from those they know, like, and trust.

Developing a focused author brand will make life easier for you on many levels. Given that reality, it becomes much easier to embrace, and even welcome, branding.

What is Branding?

As something of an abstract, the concept of branding generates confusion, suspicion, and even skepticism among writers. But neglected or (worse) inaccurate branding can have a negative impact on a writer’s career. And that’s a shame because branding isn’t that hard to understand.

Simply put, branding is the personality of a line of products or services drawn from your essence and informed by your passions and unique abilities.

Newport Wall Mural

I’ll illustrate. While in the Oregon town of Newport, I noticed the sides of buildings painted with scenes depicting whales, fishermen, and boats. The fact that Newport is a historic seaport would be true without these murals, but their presence make the air seem a little more salty. Newport brands as a seaport. If it didn’t, would it still be a seaport? Yes, but it probably wouldn’t be the tourist mecca it is. Imagine those same walls covered in the peeling paint found on buildings in other seaports. Where would a visitor with cash in hand feel most welcome?

Newport draws from what it already is to provide its special brand of tourism.

One more illustration: The folks in the obscure town of Icicle, Washington, adopted a Bavarian theme in keeping with its alpine setting. They changed the town’s name, erected chalets, and put weinerschnitzel on the menu. Droves of tourists now come from around the globe to sample Little Bavaria, or Leavenworth as it is now called.

Leavenworth’s brand came not from what the town already was, but from what its unique setting allowed it to become.

Key Point: To discover your own brand, ask yourself what you can willingly offer others based on who you already are or can realistically become.

Understanding your brand identity eases the process of developing social networking strategies. Further reading: 10 Strategies to Keep You Afloat in the Treacherous Social Media Waters.

As always, your comments and questions are welcome.

10 Strategies to Keep You Afloat in the Treacherous Social Media Waters

Image of a ship at seaWhat’s a writer to do? Publishers expect you to connect with readers online, but new networks spring up before you can learn what to do with the old ones. New invitations arrive daily in the various inboxes you don’t have time to check. You’re tweeted, emailed, and updated out, and never mind all the invitations you have no time to decline. It’s a slow-drip torture.

If the treacherous waters of social networking are swamping your ship, you’re not alone. A wise writer fights back with a strategy. Here are ten strategies to help you:

  1. Pick your battles. Decide where to focus your energy online. Although Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn have a greater share of traffic, your results may vary, depending on the audience you want to reach, your brand, and your particular style of networking. Pay attention to where your visitors come from, and you’ll be able to make an informed decision about where to focus your efforts.
  2. Set aside specific times or a time limit for social networking. Decide where and when and how you’ll interact online and stick to your guns. Failing to approach the Internet with this mindset makes it far too easy to lose track of time. If you have trouble adhering to a set time, use an egg timer or other alarm to warn you when your time is up.
  3. Manage your social networks from one dashboard. I use and recommend http://hootsuite.com for posting to and tracking my social sites. With Hootsuite, I can post the same update to more than one site simultaneously and pre-schedule or auto-schedule updates. Another popular option is Tweetdeck.
  4. Use browser extensions to shortcut social tasks. I favor Google Chrome because of the extensions I can add to my browser. I use Silver Bird to post to Twitter, check my tweet stream, follow search terms and hashtags, and for alerts when I’m mentioned on Twitter–all from my browser. I use Hootsuite’s Hootlet, Bitly (a link shortener that tracks stats), Google+ FacebookLinkedIn, and Stumbleupon extensions as well. Pinterest’s Pin It button is a big time-saver. All of these tools operate from small icons embedded at the top of my browser. This cuts down my visits to the social sites themselves, saving a tremendous amount of time.
  5. Understand your brand and how it applies to your social networking efforts. If you don’t know who you are and what you have to offer, you won’t know what to build and can spend a lot of time investing in the wrong thing. Watch for my next post, which will be all about finding your brand. (If you want to make sure you don’t miss it, sign up in the sidebar to receive the blog’s email updates.)
  6. Know your audience. Understanding who you’re writing for and what they care about is an essential step in developing an effective social media strategy. Make the effort to discover and develop your target audience. If you’re not sure how to do that, this post for novelists can help nonfiction writers as well: How to Find an Audience for Your Novel.
  7. Develop tunnel-vision and wear blinders. When you log into a social site, distractions abound. Keep your focus. It can help to follow a simple list. Here’s an example for Facebook: respond to comments and post to my wall, post to three friends’ walls, upload a picture, check emails, accept or decline new friends, respond to event invitations, and log off (30 minutes).
  8. Adhere to a social media schedule. I’ve programmed Google Calendar to send me email reminders to pay more attention to one social site over others on a specific schedule. During these visits, which occur weekly, I do maintenance tasks like revamp my bio, check that my links are current, swap out my profile picture, upload videos, make sure my site adheres to my brand, and the like.
  9. Count the opportunity costs. Time spent on social sites is time not spent doing other things. It’s easy to get caught up by online friendships to the detriment of real-life relationships. Reminding yourself of your priorities helps you switch activities or power down the computer.
  10. Track yourself online. Install Rescue Time to track you online and send you productivity reports. If you lack discipline, this software can help you find it again. There are even options you can set to restrict your Internet access at certain times.

I rarely spend more than half an hour a day on social networking, and often considerably less, but for the most part I cover the bases. I hope you can glean from the strategies that have kept me sailing away on SS Social Media.